things that are a waste of money

U.S. Marines

1. Dryer sheets

Upon discovering I don’t use dryer sheets, a friend thought me a barbarian. I tried some out in my next load of laundry to prove them wrong. As expected, there wasn’t a noticeable difference (it could’ve been because my apartment complex’s washing machine is ancient) but others agree you don’t need them.

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Sara M. Lentz/U.S. Navy

Dryer sheets promise to reduce static electricity and make clothes softer, says the “laundry blog” on NJ Laundromats. But that comes at the risk of exposing yourself to harmful chemicals, says EcoWatch. Nix the dryer sheets to save money and your health.
NEXT: Just use shower gel or lotion instead of buying this.

2. Shaving cream

For shaving legs, that is. For faces, using a shaving cream that is gentle enough for delicate skin is a safer way to go. Good Housekeeping advises against using bar soap on your gams but says that hair conditioner will do just the trick. On using bar soap, dermatologist Ellen Gendler, M.D. tells Good Housekeeping this:

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“It doesn’t create enough lubrication for a razor to slide easily against your skin, which can up the odds of cuts.” The article also recommends waiting about 15 minutes in the shower before taking a razor to your legs — this softens the hairs.
NEXT: Millennials have been accused of “killing” this arguably irrelevant paper product.

3. Napkins

Napkins — who’s got ‘em, who needs ‘em? No one and no one! Sorry, Baby Boomers. Market research company Mintel discovered only 56 percent of consumers bought napkins within the last six months in March 2016. Eighty-six percent of survey participants said they bought paper towels. It makes sense — you can use them both for meals and cleaning.

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Mainly Millennials opt for paper towels at the dinner table. Napkins just aren’t an economical choice for many consumers, the survey indicates. Dan Nirenberg of consumer goods company Georgia Pacific told The Washington Post “it’s one less thing to buy.” Basically, napkins suck and research proves it.
NEXT: Like dryer sheets, these aren’t good for the environment or you.

4. Bottled water

The 2009 documentary Tapped explores the evils of the bottled water industry — its executives deceive the public and its products harm our health, contribute to pollution and climate change, and increase dependence on fossil fuels. Especially if you care about the environment, wouldn’t those facts alone make you put that water bottle back on the shelf?

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Department of Defense

True, there’s the convenience factor. But for everyday use, you can save money and the environment with a reusable water bottle. Some like Hydro Flask cost a pretty penny but there are BPA-free options that are easy on the wallet at Target.
NEXT: Depending on your hair type, you might not need this particular product.

5. Leave-in conditioners

L’Oréal Paris’ website says this hair product is applied to the hair after you wash and towel dry to make styling easier. “They can help provide extra moisture as well as detangle strands, which can help make styling easier,” says L’Oréal’s website. But do you really need it? Naturally Curly says “maybe.”

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Ric Capucho/Flickr

“Whether you need a leave-in, DIY concoction, or to re-purpose regular conditioner is totally dependent upon your hair and what works best for you,” says Naturally Curly’s website. Usually, a good quality conditioner will work for most hair, so save yourself money and bathroom cabinet space.
NEXT: Who knew washing your own lettuce could save so much money.

6. Prepared food

Who could forget the hysteria caused by Whole Foods’ pre-peeled oranges in boxes? Not only was it a waste of plastic and money, it was just plain dumb. Prepared food foods like pre-washed lettuce, pre-cut fruit, and those spiralized zoodles at Whole Foods typically cost more than regular, intact fruit and vegetables.

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kenji ross/Flickr

Sure it’s convenient, but it only takes a few moments to wash your lettuce. Also, research finds that “triple-washed” bagged lettuce usually contains chemicals like bleach. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does encourage the use of bleach because it kills E. coli but chlorine lingers on your lettuce, therefore lingering in your stomach.
NEXT: This face care product sometimes has the exact opposite effect it was intended for

7. Alcohol-based aftershave

Dr. Terrence Keaney, a dermatologist working with the Dove Men+ Care, tells Business Insider that some aftershaves can harm skin. Most aftershaves contain alcohol and heavy fragrances. Alcohol dries out skin and heavy fragrances aren’t something you should put on your face after it’s been stripped of oils. Dr. Keaney recommends an alternative.

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Try a soothing, moisturizing aftershave without alcohol. Many major skincare companies have them including Neutrogena, Dove Men+ Care, Baxter of California, Bulldog, and American Crew. Just look at the ingredients and remember — no to alcohol, yes to moisturizer!
NEXT: “What’s in a name?” Sometimes it’s the reason why you’re paying more.

8. Brand name products

Generic brands have come a long way since they first came on the scene back in the late 1970s,” says a blog post on The author of the post compared the costs associated with creating meals with generic versus name-brands. They found they could save $20 making three dinners from generic brands.

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romana klee/Flickr

Thinking bigger picture, you save $80 a month or $1,040 a year. Buuut generic isn’t always cheaper — couponing is what makes buying name-brands cheaper than generic. If you’re like me and you toss coupons absentmindedly into recycling, generic is the way to go.
NEXT: Vinegar isn’t just an old country solution, it’s a money saver!

9. Washing machine cleaners

If I’ve learned anything in my adult life, it’s to always keep baking soda and vinegar on tap. You can make a lot of cleaning solutions just from these two products, including washing machine cleaners. TODAY show is also on team white vinegar and baking soda, recommending different methods depending on the washing machine you have.

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Front loading and top loading washing machines both have different methods of cleaning yet will use vinegar and baking soda regardless. Also, make sure you have a microfiber cloth and spray bottle on hand. Washing machine cleaners are going for $7.49 on — that’s $7.49 you could put towards something else.
NEXT: You’re paying more for many products if you’re female-identifying.

10. Most items “for women”

Most products designed for those to express femininity cost more than products “for men.” This phenomenon is known as the “pink tax.” And no, this is not women being “hysterical,” (hysteria is no longer listed as a disorder in the DSM-5, btw) research supports this statement. Notably, the 2018 Government Accountability Office found pink taxes on various products and services “for women.”

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Marco Verch/Flickr

Because the Third Wave isn’t happening anytime soon, save by buying blue razors instead of the pink ones, gender-neutral shampoo and conditioner, “masculine” backpacks, etc. Of course, expressing femininity is important for one’s identity, so spend the extra buck or two if necessary.
NEXT: Your next meal is a simple Google search away.

11. Cookbooks

Especially if you’re a big fan of a certain celebrity, you’d be tempted to purchase their cookbooks. Fans obsessed with the 90s heartthrob Freddie Prinze Jr. might want to get his book Back to the Kitchen: 75 Delicious, Real Recipes (& True Stories) from a Food-Obsessed Actor. Those that live for Chrissy Teigen’s Twitter feed might shell out for her book Cravings: Hungry for More.

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Craig Barritt/GettyImages

Guess what? You can live without cookbooks. True, you might not be able to get Freddie and Chrissy’s recipes online (unless someone has leaked the contents of their coveted books) but you can find plenty of other comparable recipes online. I, personally, am a sucker for vegetarian site Cookie + Kate.
NEXT: Most electronic products come with the option of this extra purchase.

12. Extended warranties

When you buy something major, like an electronic device or a car, you might be offered an extended warranty, aka service contract. Both “regular” warranties and extended warranties offer repairs if a product breaks. There’s a major difference between the two — one that’s big enough to save you a chunk of cash.

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Pedro Vera/Flickr

“Some service contracts duplicate the warranty coverage that the manufacturer provides,” says the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) website. “Some cover only part of the product, and some make it nearly impossible to get repairs when you need them.” If the FTC says “nope,” you might want to say “nope” to extended warranties, too.
NEXT: Guess what secret ingredient I’m going to tell you to use next? It starts with a V…

13. Febreze

A house is bound to have bad smells every once in a while but there are products in your kitchen cabinet you can use instead of buying Febreze. If that doesn’t convince you, think of all the harmful carcinogens in Febreze. (The Environmental Working Group found this out in 2009.) Locating the actual source of the smell is the first step.

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Even with Febreze, that’s just masking the scent with more chemicals, not eliminating it. Stains on the wall might be a culprit so you can spray those down with my favorite — vinegar mixed with water. For smelly sinks, if the exterior isn’t dirty, you can throw a finely sliced lemon in the garbage disposal and let it grind.
NEXT: Just use your foot, for goodness sake!

14. Trash compactor

The patent for household trash compactors was filed in 1973 by John A. Boyd. In 2019, we barely see these anymore. Meant as a means to compact trash to make household chores easier, Family Handyman says that trash compactor sales have decreased sharply over the years. Consumers found their big size and how they increased trash density inconvenient.

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Albert Jankowski/Wikimedia Commons

They’re pricey as well — Sears lists one for $799.99. If you’re not planning on using a trash compactor for commercial use (they were originally made to crush oil cans) just use the ol’ step in the trash can method to crush trash.
NEXT: Not buying these products will make your kitchen drawers a lot less cluttered.

15. Single-use kitchen tools

Some of them are quite useful, such as an egg poacher or rice maker (especially if you eat rice every day) but some you can do without. For example, a salad spinner like the one pictured or an avocado slicer. Using a knife has famously sent a lot of avocado toast loving folks to urgent care, but it doesn’t have to be this way.

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Bruce Turner/Wikimedia Commons

Take it from a born and raised Californian here: The key is to oh so gently slice an avocado length-wise, use your hands to twist and separate the avocado into two halves, carefully jab the knife to the pit, then slam the knife over a garbage can or sink ’til said pit falls out. No special avocado slicer needed!
NEXT: If you’re putting these in your baby’s crib, you could be putting their life at risk.

16. Crib bumpers

Guidelines released by American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) in 2011 urge parents to get those bumpers out of their babies’ cribs. Instead of cute little bed sets, babies sleep the best just on a firm mattress without loose bedding. Because babies lack motor skills and strength, crib bumpers actually carry a risk of suffocation, strangulation, and entrapment.

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Cveleglg/Wikimedia Commons

The evidence that bumpers prevent injuries is basically zilch, say the AAP guidelines. In a study published in a 2007 issue of The Journal of Pediatrics, researchers found evidence of 27 accidental deaths of children related to padded crib bumpers from 1985 through 2005.
NEXT: There’s a cheaper alternative to making your silver jewelry shine like new.

17. Silver jewelry polish

The website Wisebread says you can make your own concoction for polishing silver jewelry: “Mix a little toothpaste with baking soda, scrub with a toothbrush, then rinse with warm water and buff with a dry cloth.” Just be wary of super abrasive cleaning methods because those can damage that precious, precious silverware.

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StacyZ aka Adore_One/Flickr

The TODAY show also recommends a similar method for cleaning silver jewelry with baking soda and boiling water. The article also highlights the main culprit behind tarnished jewelry: air. Best to keep your jewelry in a box as much as possible. My silver earrings have become so tarnished because I did not follow my own advice…
NEXT: Again, it’s the name that can chalk up the price of prescriptions.

18. Name-brand prescriptions

If you’re scared that generic medications won’t do the same thing as name-brand prescriptions, don’t be! The FDA requires it. Generic is cheaper because “generic drug applicants do not have to repeat animal and clinical (human) studies that were required of the brand-name medicines to demonstrate safety and effectiveness,” says the FDA’s website.

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Martha Cooper/Picryl

It goes on to say that generic drugs are typically a whopping 80 to 85 percent less than their brand name counterparts. In fact, generic drugs saved the U.S. healthcare system $1.67 trillion from 2007 to 2016, reported the IMS Health Institute.
NEXT: Waking up on time? There’s an app for that.

19. Alarm clock

If you have a smartphone, you have an alarm clock. On iPhone it’s the Clock app (on which you can also set timers and world clocks) and same name for Android. You’re already paying an arm and a leg for the newest iteration of your smartphone of choice, might as well use it to its full capacity.

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Of course, there are alarm clocks that are cheaper than others. For example, a Timex Alarm Clock at Bed Bath & Beyond is currently going for $12.99 online. But then there’s a very trendy and fancy Arne Jacobson Alarm Clock going for $129 on Schoolhouse Electric & Supply Co.
NEXT: Like crib bumpers, this is another baby product that you don’t need. It’s not dangerous like bumpers, however. 

20. Wipe warmers

If you’d like, you can warm baby wipes in the palm of your hand for a few moments before using, but babies probably won’t notice the difference. There’s a lot of baby products you can do without — even buying new outfits instead of taking hand-me-downs is a waste of money. Of course, if you don’t have hand-me-downs that’s another story.

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Christopher Hernandez/US Army Reserve

Otherwise, the baby is going to outgrow their newborn outfits in no time at all! If you’re having a baby shower anytime soon, nix weird products like wipe warmers and load up on diapers, diapers, diapers. Trust, you’ll need these most of all…
NEXT: I look for every opportunity to bust out the white vinegar.

21. Metal polish

Buying metal polish to buff out the chrome on your car or steel sinks isn’t necessary. Lifehacker recommends baby oil and Coke for making chrome shine and flour for stainless steel. To polish brass, mix flour, salt and vinegar for the best results. For plain old silver, use baking soda or — surprisingly — a banana peel.

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Igniateff/Wikimedia Commons

Banana peels also work well for polishing shoes, believe it or not. Just don’t slip on them! Brasso brand metal polish might cost around $3 on Amazon for a small 5.1-ounce bottle. Sure it’s only $3 but you already have a lot of cleaning ingredients at your disposal.